The boy can’t help it: Little Richard’s disruption and re-construction of screen performativity

Attah, Tom ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6493-3377 (2022) The boy can’t help it: Little Richard’s disruption and re-construction of screen performativity. In: Pop Stars on Film. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781501372513 (In Press)

Abstract

As both “…the architect of rock and roll,” and the archetypal rock and roller, Little Richard’s genre-defining performance of sound and self in the studio, on stage and on screen repeatedly sets and transgresses the boundaries of performativity within popular music and popular culture. In cinema appearances which include lip-synching to his music in The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), portraying a slowly exploding music producer in Down and Out in Beverley Hills (1986), and voicing his own cartoon cameo for television’s The Simpsons (2002), Little Richard’s screen performance collapses performer, persona and protagonist into an expressive mode which draws on, defies and so re-defines our understanding of pop stars-as-actors. This essay examines the cultural impact of Little Richard as a multi-media stylistic originator and disruptor, with a specific focus on screen-based dimensions of his musical influence and performance legacy.

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